Squarespace vs. WordPress: It’s A Tradeoff
When you make the decision between Squarespace and WordPress, your choice basically comes down to a simple tradeoff between two concepts:
- Ease of use
Do you want the absolute easiest way to create a website? Or do you want a way to create a website that gives you the flexibility to add the exact styling and features that you want?
Squarespace wants to offer its users the absolute simplest method to create a website. But, in order to make its tool easy to use, Squarespace operates as a closed ecosystem and sacrifices a good deal of flexibility.
WordPress goes in the other direction. It’s not quite as easy to use as Squarespace, but that sacrifice is often worth it because of how flexible WordPress is. WordPress offers tens of thousands of themes and plugins to customize your site’s styling and functionality.
There are other smaller considerations like:
- Content/data ownership
But in general, that dichotomy between ease of use and flexibility is what should shape your decision.
Below, I’ll dig into how these differences play out when you actually go to build your website.
How You Build A Website With Each Platform
Squarespace is the winner (slightly) when it comes to how easy it is to build a website from scratch.
While WordPress is still easy for most beginners to grasp, the setup process is a bit more involved because you’re responsible for certain technical details like hosting.
When you build a website with Squarespace, you don’t need to worry about technical details like choosing hosting and purchasing a domain name.
Instead, all you do is sign up for a Squarespace account, and you’re off to the races.
Immediately after signing up, Squarespace will prompt you to choose a template for your new website:
You can customize your existing template pages by clicking and typing. And if you want to build your own layouts, you can do so using a simple drag and drop editor:
With WordPress, you’ll need to complete a few technical details before you can start building a website.
- Choosing and signing up for web hosting.
- Purchasing a domain name (you can usually do this through your web host).
- Installing the actual WordPress software (most hosts offer one-click installers to simplify this process).
As a result, the process is a little bit more technically involved than Squarespace.
With that being said, it’s still fairly easy to launch your own self-hosted WordPress site. So even though the process isn’t as simple as Squarespace, it’s still pretty straightforward and easy for most beginners.
Once you install the WordPress software, you can choose and install your own theme from the tens of thousands of free and premium WordPress themes:
Then, you can start writing content. And if you want to build more complicated pages to approximate the functionality of the Squarespace editor, you can install one of the many drag and drop WordPress page builders.
How You Add Functionality To Your Website With Each Platform
While Squarespace is the slight winner when it comes to how easy it is to create a basic website, WordPress dominates when it comes to extending your site with new functionalities.
Because Squarespace is a closed ecosystem, you’re unable to install your own functionality. Squarespace does let you add your own client-side code, but that’s pretty much it as far as external functionality goes.
With that said, Squarespace does at least include some built-in functionality to extend your site.
For example, Squarespace makes it easy to set up an eCommerce store and start selling products through your website, though they will charge more for this functionality:
- Social share buttons
- Newsletter subscribe forms
- Contact forms
All in all, though, Squarespace just can’t compete with WordPress in terms of potential functionality.
When you build your website with WordPress, you get full access to the massive WordPress plugin ecosystem. Plugins add all sorts of functionalities to your site without you needing to know any code.
Right now, there are 52,000+ free WordPress plugins, plus thousands of more premium plugins. Those huge numbers are why people say that you can find a WordPress plugin for pretty much any type of functionality that you want to add to your site.
Plus, installing a plugin is as simple as clicking a few buttons inside your WordPress dashboard
Remember – if you can think it, there’s probably a WordPress plugin for it.
How WordPress & Squarespace Handle Data Ownership
When you’re deciding between Squarespace vs. WordPress, data ownership and privacy should be something you give serious thought to.
When you build your website with Squarespace, you’re handing control of your data over to them, which is part of how Squarespace is able to provide such a streamlined, user-friendly interface.
With WordPress, though, you retain full control over all of your data. You can do whatever you want with it and manipulate it as needed.
So why does data ownership matter? Let’s say that a year down the road, you decide that you want to move away from Squarespace.
What happens to all of your existing content? Because you don’t control your web server or have access to your site’s database, you’re basically at the mercy of Squarespace.
Now, Squarespace does let you export some of your content as an XML file. Currently, you can export:
- Regular Pages
- Gallery Pages
- One Blog Page and all of its posts
- Text Blocks
- Image Blocks
- Text from other blocks like the Embed Block, Twitter Block, and Instagram Block will export with minimum structure
But you cannot export any of the following content:
- Product Pages
- Index Pages
- Event Pages
- Album Pages
- Cover Pages
- More than one Blog Page
- Audio Blocks
- Video Blocks
- Product Blocks
- Style changes
- Custom CSS
Additionally, this limitation means that you can never truly back up your entire website. Unlikely as it is, if Squarespace were to experience a failure, you wouldn’t have access to a working copy of your site.
With WordPress, you have 100% ownership and access to your data.
You can create full backups, export every single bit of data on your site, and do, well, pretty much anything else you want.
How You Handle Maintenance And Security On Each Platform
Because Squarespace is a closed ecosystem, you don’t have to worry about maintenance or security – the Squarespace team is responsible for all of that.
With WordPress, though, you’ll need to take a more proactive approach to security and maintenance, or at least pick a host that does it for you.
There’s not much more to say here – you don’t need to lift a finger when it comes to maintenance and security. That’s the benefit you get for giving Squarespace complete control over your site.
With WordPress, things are a little bit more complicated. Because you have full control and ownership over your site, you’re also responsible for maintaining and securing it.
Most of the time, this is pretty simple because the WordPress team does a great job at releasing secure code. But you will still need to do things like:
- Ensure you swiftly update WordPress and all of your themes/plugins.
- Regularly back up your site.
- Implement basic security protocols.
Most of this can be done by:
- Choosing a managed WordPress host.
- Installing the proper plugins.
But the fact remains that security and maintenance are things you need to think about with WordPress, which is not the case with Squarespace.
How Much You Need To Pay For Each Platform
There’s no clear answer to which platform is more affordable. A basic WordPress site will cost less than a basic Squarespace site. But if you purchase premium hosting, themes, or plugins, a WordPress site could also cost more.
With Squarespace, you’ll always know exactly how much your site will cost. You pay a fixed price per month or year.
Those prices start at $12 per month (billed annually) for a basic site and go up to $40 per month (billed annually) for an eCommerce site.
With WordPress, there are only two fixed costs – you pay for:
- Your domain name
If you choose a cheap WordPress host, that could cost you as little as $40-$50 per year.
On the other hand, premium WordPress hosts like Kinsta start at $100 per month, and you also might find yourself wanting premium themes and plugins.
For that reason, a high-traffic WordPress site could easily cost significantly more.
Should You Choose Squarespace Or WordPress?
For most users, WordPress is the best choice.
While Squarespace is a user-friendly tool for creating a basic website, it lacks:
- The ability to easily add more functionality.
- True data ownership.
Those sacrifices might be fine in the beginning – but as your site grows, you’ll likely find yourself wishing you had more flexibility.
It is true that WordPress isn’t quite as beginner-friendly as Squarespace, but that shouldn’t necessarily scare beginners away because:
- WordPress is still fairly easy to use, even if it’s not to the level of Squarespace.
- WordPress has a huge third-party support community that makes it easy to find help.
Now I’m wondering what you think. Do you prefer Squarespace or WordPress for building websites? Let me hear your thoughts in the comments below!